Parsnips are originally from Eurasia, a landmass combining eastern parts of Europe and Asia. The root vegetable served as a vital food source until the potato was discovered in the New World.
I had never seen a parsnip until I came to North America, and at first I did not like the taste of them, especially raw. However, when cooked or roasted, the distinct peppery, slightly nutty and sweet flavors of these nutrient-packed tubers come to center stage. When paired with carrots for a sweet compliment, they lend themselves so well to spices! I have grown to love parsnips and strive to discover new ways to use them during the winter.
Ajwain, a spice native to India, pairs beautifully with parsnips. In some areas, ajwain is known as “bishop’s weed” or “carom.” It is a small roundish seed with distinct, pungent flavors of oregano with an aroma reminiscent of thyme. You can sprinkle it over roasted potatoes, fish or meats.
Raita is the cooling companion on an Indian table, usually prepared in a minimally spiced way. It can also work as a dip — as it does here with the ajwain-dusted parsnips.
makes ~4 servings
2 large carrots + 2 large parsnips (total weight roughly 1.5 lbs)
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ajwain
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp black pepper
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp amchur
½ tsp chili powder
sesame seeds and chopped cilantro for garnish
1 small beet
1 cup plain thick yogurt (preferably whole milk)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut them into 4 inch long and ½ inch thick sticks. Toss with oil, salt, black pepper, turmeric and ajwain and lay them flat on a baking sheet. Cover tightly with foil and cook them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. They will steam then turn tender yet hold their shape.
Remove the foil, raise the oven temperature to 400F and sprinkle the vegetables with amchur. Place the tray back in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Remove and immediately sprinkle with chili powder. The vegetables should have turned golden brown. Garnish with sesame seeds, chopped cilantro and serve with the beet raita.
For Beet Raita
Wrap the beet in foil and place in a 350F oven for 45 minutes to an hour. When the beet feels soft and tender, remove from the oven and let it cool. Peel, grate and combine with the yogurt, salt and pepper. In a small frying pan, heat up the olive oil until hot but not yet smoking and add the cumin seeds. They will pop and sizzle for just 4-5 seconds then fold into into the beet yogurt.
ideas / variations
Replace olive oil with ghee, coconut oil or butter for added flavor.
Amchur is sun dried green mango – another great spice that can make it’s way into your kitchen is so much more like roasted potatoes, chicken or popcorn!
Covering the vegetables in foil steams and bakes them for the initial process lets them stay plump as opposed to vegetables that often shrivel up in the oven over time.